Representatives from Coca-Cola corporate and local operations last week laid out a detailed plan for how the company is immediately addressing the odor problem at its Truesdale plant.
The multiphased plan — which includes the installation of a high-tech centrifuge system this month — was presented during a special Truesdale Board of Aldermen meeting held May 30.
An odor coming from the plant, located just off Interstate 70, has triggered complaints from residents and motorists. It also comes on the heels of similar odor issues last year.
“Over the past several weeks, we know a number of residents have noticed odor coming from our facility,” Coke’s Gary McElyea told the board and others attending the meeting.
McElyea traveled to Truesdale from Kansas to join local operations managers Marian Adams, Steve Cassells, Paddy Padhier and Nandy Verma in presenting the full plan.
“The odor is a result of our beverage waste system maintenance,” McElyea said, noting that Coke last year began looking at solutions for treating its wastewater lagoons to permanently eliminate the smell. All waste in the lagoon is sludge and liquid from the plant’s production line, much of it coming from the cleaning of equipment when switching production from one beverage to another, according to company officials.
Padhier, Coke’s environmental compliance manager, said there are no public health issues, explaining that production line waste is diverted into the lagoons where aeration creates oxygen and bacteria that “eat up the sludge.”
Padhier said the plant is in full compliance with state and local regulations and is committed to working closely with the cities of Warrenton and Truesdale on its improvements.
Want to Be GoodNeighbors
“Coca-Cola has been proud to call Truesdale home for more than 40 years,” said McElyea. “We’re proud to bottle a number of our soft drinks, teas and sports beverages and to support more than 180 jobs here.”
He called attention to Coke’s growth across North America, which has fueled the expansion of local production. That expansion has contributed to the odor situation, since more material is being released into the lagoons.
McElyea said everyone at Coke recognizes that the smell has been “unpleasant,” and said Coke takes responsibility for not fully informing surrounding residents of the company’s plans to create a long-term solution for the wastewater system.
“We want to apologize to our neighbors and our community for the odor, and want to ensure everyone that we are taking immediate steps to remedy this situation,” McElyea said.
He said the company has approached the solution with an eye toward one that will permanently solve the problem.
Coke officials attending last week’s meeting discussed three processes the company is immediately putting into place to resolve the smell issue. McElyea said the company and plant had brought in numerous consultants to help Coke “go beyond a Band-Aid to create a permanent solution.
”The first involves increasing the amount and frequency of its deodorizing process and treating the lower lagoon every three hours around the clock. Using more deodorizer and treating the lagoon overnight will better mask the smell in the early morning when it typically has been at its worst, according to officials.
Second, officials said that Coke is investing nearly $500,000 to increase its aeration capacity.The third and most important phase will be installing by the end of this month a state-of-the-art centrifuge system which will function as a sort of mega salad spinner, spinning the sludge to the outer areas of the system. The sludge “cakes” will then be shipped to landfills, officials said.
Padhier noted there is so much demand for centrifuge technology that Coke’s own build-out of a custom system will take six months.
“We made the decision to rent a system that we can install this month while we wait for a custom solution,” said Padhier.
‘Why Didn’t We NailThis Last Year?’
“Why are we going through this another year? Why didn’t we nail this last year?” City Attorney Tim Joyce asked the Coke representatives.
Officials attributed the situation this year to the growth of the Truesdale plant in the past year.
“The decision was made to invest in this facility this year,” said Padhier. “This investment of $32 million generated more volume, which in turn generated more production discharge.”
As the growth projections were being considered, Coke began evaluating a different technology for accommodating increased production waste and that would be a good fit with the plant’s longer term growth goals.
The flip side of this coin, McElyea said, is that the expansion created an additional 50 jobs with a rippling impact on supplier jobs, too.
Letter to Residents
McElyea said Coke will send a letter this week to nearby residents apologizing for the situation and communicating the measures the company is taking to fix things.
McElyea said that the Truesdale plant is among the top 10 best performing facilities in North America.
“It is a gem in the Coca-Cola system,” he said.“We know we’re only as strong as our community ties,” added McElyea. “We want to be a long-term citizen in Warren County and do everything we can in a short amount of time to be good neighbors and get this right.”